English 101 9:00-9:50 AM
29 November 2012
Reducing Distracted Driving
In the early hours of November 27, 2012, a seventeen year old Belton High School student was killed in a car crash. The student was traveling at excessively high speeds and was not wearing his seat belt when he wrecked his automobile into a tree. Fortunately, Tyler Carr was the only person involved in the crash and no others were injured (Vaughn). Just days before, Joseph Scott, a seventeen Oak Grove High School student was also killed in a head on collision. The other driver in this crash was hospitalized with non life-threatening injuries. The other driver stated that Scott had shifted into the wrong lane and there was no way that he could have avoided the crash (KSHB). The causes of both crashes are still under investigation to see if drugs or alcohol were involved. Both of these terrible situations could have easily been avoided if the drivers were acting more responsibly. Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for teens ages 16 to 19 in the United States (Teen Drivers: Fact Sheet). Your average person is almost always doing multiple things at once, even while driving. Often, these distractions are to blame for many accidents of people of all ages. There is always the stereotype that teenagers are always on their phones, and while this one of the most commonly known causes of distracted driving, anything that requires the driver to do something other than drive is qualified as a distraction. There are three main types of distractions; cognitive, visual and manual. Each type of distraction has a different meaning as well. For example, visual distractions are classified as anything that required the driver to take their eyes off of the road such as looking at something out the window of your vehicle. Cognitive distractions are classified as anything that causes the driver to have their mind on something other than driving. Thinking about problems at work or trying to plan out your day in your mind are both classified as cognitive distractions. Finally, physical distractions are considered to be the most dangerous and most common type of distractions. Anything requiring the driver to take their hand off of the wheel is a physical distraction. Using cellular phones while driving to applying make-up or eating all are physical distractions. The amount of accidents caused by teen drivers can be greatly reduced if help and cooperation from parents and the education system, car manufacturers and car insurance companies and also law enforcement can be gained. Although the driving age and requirements vary from state to state, almost all teen drivers share one element: they almost all have a cell phone with them at all times. It is essential that teens are taught that using a cell phone while behind the wheel is not okay, and in most states is even illegal. Starting to educate children early on about safe driving techniques is an essential part of preventing bad driving habits for teens. If we teach children about safe driving before they get behind the wheel, when they actually begin driving they will already have good habits instilled in their minds. Once of age to have a driver’s permit, there are many drivers education courses teens may take, some are even offered for credit at public schools. Twenty nine states require that novice drivers that a driver’s education course before they may get their license. It has been speculated in a few studies that if every state had such requirements, the number of accidents including teen drivers would decrease. Finally, parents play a large role in teaching their children to drive. Parents should act as role models while their children are learning to drive, or even just in the car. If children see their parents using their phones while driving, they may think it is acceptable behavior for them as well. Parents should advocate both how to be a safe driver and the consequences of reckless or distracted driving. It is also extremely important that parents make sure their teens understand just how easy it is for people to hurt or even killed while on the road. After actually teaching their teens how to drive, parents often struggle with feeling safe about their children being out on the roads alone. Car manufacturers and car insurance agencies can help put parents’ minds to ease. A few car companies have already started implementing new safety features on new models of automobiles. Sixty-eight percent of people who die in car crashes were not wearing a seatbelt (Seat Belt Safety, Seat Belt Laws). A company called Lifebelt is helping to decrease that statistic. Lifebelt has designed a seatbelt that works with the engine requiring the driver to be wearing their seatbelt before they can start the car. A few car manufacturers are starting to offer the Lifebelt as an extended option on new models (Lifebelt). There has been the argument made that it may be harder to get a restrained person out of a car in the case of a wreck but the Lifebelt is the same strength as any other seatbelt which are already required by law to be worn in most states. It is believed that if the Lifebelt was used standard on all models of cars, the percentage of deaths for unrestrained drivers and passengers overall would decrease. Car insurance agencies are also beginning to offer safe teen driving contracts. The contracts are offered by various car insurance agencies and differ slightly from each other. Most contracts consist of sections where the teens and parents work together to set out guidelines and consequences for different situations on the road and overall driving safety (Parent/Teen Contract). These contracts help the teens to see that they will have real consequences at home if they break the contract as well as if they are given consequences from law enforcement. Some car insurance agencies also promote safe teen driving by offering lower premiums over time to teens with a safe driving history. There are also various other discounts for teen drivers including good grades, completing driver’s education courses and anti-lock brakes discounts (Raising a Teen Driver). These discounts and lower premiums can take some pressure off of the parents’ minds and wallets. These are just a few ways that both car manufacturers and car insurance agencies are able to help improve teen driving skills. Police officers are often known to be sitting hidden somewhere near a high school around the time that school gets out. They know that once the final bell rings, students will be speeding home or to work and they will be able to make the roads a little safer by writing them a ticket. One of the most common reasons for traffic violations to be issued to teenagers is for breaking the speed limit. Often times though, the most common law broken by teens is texting while driving. The current law in Missouri is that it is illegal for anyone under the age of twenty one to send, receive or write a text message while operating a motor vehicle (Hentges). There are also many new laws working their way through the legislature about cell phone usage and driving in Missouri. These laws range from making texting and driving illegal for people of all ages to not being able to use a cell phone while driving, even with a hands free device (Missouri Texting Laws). The texting and driving laws are difficult to enforce often times because police officers have a hard time telling if a driver is actually texting or just navigating through their phone to make a phone call. Even if the officer is able to issue a ticket for texting and driving, it is often overturned in court due to a lack of evidence (Thomasson). If the texting ban was more heavily enforced and had harsher penalties, teens would think twice before texting while driving. Many states also have a special, sometimes known as a “restricted” or “intermediate”, license for new drivers. In Missouri, drivers with an intermediate license cannot have more than one passenger that is not in their immediate family in the car with them for the first six months, after that, they may have no more than three (Missouri Department of Revenue). If these laws were stricter, like only allowing intermediate drivers to drive to and from work and school, they would be on the road for less time and therefore cause fewer accidents. Finally, the required score to pass the driving portion of the test to receive your intermediate license also varies from state to state. For instance, in Missouri, the required score is only a seventy percent. This means that there are teen drivers on our roads that may only drive safely seventy percent of the time and are still allowed to have a license (Missouri Department of Revenue). If the states were to raise the required score to eighty or even ninety percent, our roads would a much safer place for everyone to drive. With the support from law enforcement agencies, we can not only make roads safer for teens, but for every driver out on the roads. By following just a few of the simple suggestions mentioned above, you can make our roads safer for all drivers. Now, it’s your turn to make a difference. Do you want you or your child to be another statistic? If not, then take action and promote safe driving for teens you could end up saving multiple lives just by giving teenagers a few tips on how to drive safely. Clearly, by gaining the cooperation of car manufacturers and insurance agencies, law enforcement, and education systems and parents, we can greatly diminish the amount of accidents cause by teenage drivers.
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